In 2008 , Steven Soderbergh , released CHE, the two part biopic on revolutionary and cultural icon Che Guevera. It charts the story of a young Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and a band of Castro-led Cuban exiles mobilize an army to topple the regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista.
i wonder if Soderbergh got any grieve from Cubans complaining about a white guy telling “their son’s” story.
The role of the icon was played by Benicio Del Toro(The Usual Suspects,21 Grams), who collaborated once again with his TRAFFIC director. In preparation for portraying the icon , Del Toro spent 7 years researching the life of Guevera ( beyond the t-shirt looking cool, how many of us know anything about who Che actually was?) .
Why am i talking about CHE. Well, recently for what seems like the umpteenth time(how many is that exactly) i was watching the brilliant documentary on the history of Nigeria, by Jide Olanrewaju , brilliant stuff, i highly recommend.
It is a well put together piece that charts the country from the colonial days to independence to post military rule. It maps out all the key players , the coups, the Biafran war and how we got to where we are today. Through the movie , one name kept on coming back DODAN BARRACKS. This was where most of the military men that ruled and conducted coups emerged from or where resident. It then occurred to me, what if there was a Biopic, covering the history of the nation, from the perspective of the men in the Barracks? Charting from the very first coup to the eventual return to civilian rule in 99 where they returned to where they belonged? (hence the title DODAN). It would cover 30+ years of history , following many of these officers from Junior officers, how they rose through the ranks, their inter-relationships, and how it went on to affect their decisions, and where they are in the country today. Right from Ironsi and the first coup, to the Biafran war (a story of it’s own) to Abdusalami handing back in 1999.
Like the CHE it will take two parts to chart all this, but like Clint Eastwood two part history of the war (Flag of our Fathers/Letters to Iwo Jima) the second part would be seen from a different point of view, from that of the politicians and the civilians. This would enable a broader view and may even change any opinion formed from seeing the first film.
The country would be the the main character, and everyone are just the supporting cast.
But if such a movie got a perfect script and a blank cheque to make it happen, who would play these roles? Who would be cast in the roles of Awolowo, Zik, Ironsi, Murtala Muhammed,Ojukwu , Obasanjo, Gowon, MKO, Babanjida ,Abacha etc.
Alternatively, it could be made into mini series, and taking a cue from HBO series THE WIRE, each season would cover a different theme on the history of the country Colonial Days,Biafra, Coups, Birth of corruption , etc
Having said all this, the question rises. Who can direct such as sprawling epic that charts over 60 years of a nation’s history? With the soon release of Half of a Yellow Sun, and the anticipated release of “76”, two films that dip their toe into the history of the nation, a project like this is not out of the realm of possibilities, and i for one , think that it’s about time the younger generation sees what went on in the past, and start taking the steps to avoid repeating those mistakes.
So, Question of the day. Assuming HBO was ready to finance a project like this, hiring Nigerian writers, producers, directors and actors. Who do you think(Home or Diaspora) would be perfect for a project like this? And for whoever you name, you have to state why, and based on what previous work(films,TV) do you think they can write, direct, produce or portray a historical character? Their popularity is not a factor, just their skillset